The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor is the principal Federal agency responsible for measuring labor market activity, working conditions, and price changes in the economy.
W O R K P L A C E I N J U R I E S
Nearly 50 years of occupational safety and
By Jeff Brown
In 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) marks 50 years since President Richard Nixon signed into law the
Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970. This law was intended to ensure “so far as possible every
working man and woman in the nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human
resources.”1 To accomplish this, the OSH Act authorized the Secretary of Labor to “develop and maintain an
effective program of collection, compilation, and analysis of occupational safety and health statistics.”2 The
Secretary delegated this responsibility to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which first published estimates from
the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) for the 1972 survey year.3
July 2020 | Vol. 9 / No. 9
U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS
This Beyond the Numbers article recognizes the 50th anniversary of the OSH Act of 1970 and discusses the SOII
and the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and changes in occupational safety and health data. These
sister programs publish information on the counts, incidence rates, and characteristics of nonfatal work-related
injuries and illnesses and fatal injuries, respectively.4 Established following passage of the 1970 OSH Act, the SOII
has been the source of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses among U.S. workplaces since its inception.
BLS established the CFOI in 1992 to provide more detailed data and characteristics of fatal workplace injuries and
is widely regarded as the most comprehensive source available on workplace fatalities.
For nearly five decades, BLS has published national- and state-level estimates of nonfatal workplace injuries and
illnesses from the SOII annually.5 These BLS data are integral to the DOL mission to improve working conditions
by informing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other policymakers about the
incidence of nonfatal injuries and ill